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MF Drive Like the MF Boost pedal covered above, the $179 MF Drive offers a cool and uniquely Moog take on guitar distortion. At its core, this is an OTA-based overdrive that generates fat, naturalistic crunch. As you advance the gain, the signal compresses and bleeds highs in an impressive simulation of tube amp distortion. A toggle selects between high and low input levels, accommodating pickups of varied output.
But it’s also a filter pedal—and one that interacts with the distortion circuit in cool and useful ways. Make that two filters: a multifaceted tone control and a resonant Moog ladder filter.
First, the tone control: In the lowest part of its range, it filters highs, with a dark, bass-heavy sound in the fully counterclockwise position. But as it nears the center of its range, it cuts varying amounts of midrange (at 800 Hz). As it’s moved further to the right, it peels off lows, producing shrieking treble-boosted tones at its maximum setting. Depending on its position, the control can nudge your amp toward fat tweedy sounds, scooped blackface colors, or mid-forward, vaguely British tones. That’s a lot of sounds from one little tone control.
The real fun starts when you add the resonant filter. With the peak toggle engaged, the filter adds 15 dB of gain at whatever frequency you park the filter knob. Alternately, you can use an expression pedal (not included) to control the filter-frequency, wah-style.
I say “wah style” because the character of the filtering differs from that of the leading wahs. You can definitely obtain dramatic filter effects, but don’t expect to plug in a foot controller at whip out a creditable version of “Voodoo Chile” or “Theme from Shaft.” It’s not that particular flavor, but something subtler.
Sweeping the filter knob lets you highlight particular parts of a sound’s spectrum, be it a nasal resonance, or a hearty thump evocative of closed-back cabinets. Again, this isn’t modeling per se, but it’s a way to reinvent tones. Depending on how you position the interactive gain, tone, and filter knobs, you can create the impression of varying body types, pickups, and amps. You have to fiddle around to get there, though—the MF Drive will probably appeal more to tweakers than plug-in-and-go types.
The MF Drive would be particularly useful for pinpointing an ideal frequency niche for overdubbed guitars. In this regard it’s similar to some of the new drive/filter pedals inspired by the 1980s Systech Harmonic Generator, such as a the Spontaneous Audio Devices Son of Kong and Totally Wycked Audio’s Triskelion. The MF Drive isn’t as extreme as those devices—it lacks their adjustable Q (filter bandwidth) and stronger filter intensity, so it can’t mimic their violent rumbles and shrieks. But it provides a remarkable array of options for a mid-priced overdrive. Another Tube Screamer clone, this ain’t.
The versatile and imaginative MF Drive strikes a compromise between conventional overdrives and over-the-top “dirty filters” of the Systech Harmonic Energizer ilk. Its complexly interactive controls can be tricky to master, but they reward the patient tweaker with cool and unconventional overdrive colors.